An Introvert’s Letter to an Extroverted World

Dear World:

I’ve found myself on the receiving end of a lot of misunderstanding about my shy, introverted nature. I’d like the chance to explain it to you because, seriously, I’m tired of this.

First, did you know that though similar, being shy and being an introvert are different things? Sometimes a person can be both. But you can also be a quiet extrovert and a loud introvert! To people who’ve known me longest, they think I’m outgoing and energetic because I’m comfortable enough around them to show them the goofy silly me. They often tell me that they forgot that when I first met them at a crowded bar, that I very nearly clung to my boyfriend’s (now he’s my husband) arm the whole time. I tried to keep up the conversations around us but soon found that I had no idea what to say. Luckily for me, everyone around us was kind enough to re-start them when I mentally floundered for something to ask or say. Nowadays I am better with the chit chat, but I wouldn’t ever say I am comfortable.

Now, you may be asking yourself, “what’s the difference between an introvert and an extrovert?” Well I’ll tell you! Imagine that two people have a cup of social energy. This is the energy they’ll need to make it through a party. The introvert’s cup will likely be empty by the end of the night. Whether she was hosting or attending the party, she will have flitted around and talked to people. She may have talked to people she doesn’t know or friends she’s known since she was in school. All of that socialising likely exhausted her, even if she enjoyed it. At the end of the night, she needs to be alone to refill her cup, to recharge, so to speak. Introverts are all too often given the stereotype that they hate going to parties and being social. That is just untrue. It all has to do with how we get our energy back after we’ve spent it all. Extroverts, however, will tend to gain social energy as that party continues. It is through being social that they recharge and so at the end of the same party, an extrovert is ready for the next party, but the introvert might need to spend the day alone.

However, being shy is to be afraid of social interactions. Being introverted is to be easily overwhelmed by too much social interaction. Do you see the difference? I can get on a stage and perform in front of hundreds of people, but I find small talk with a person I don’t know to be MUCH harder to do. (But I’ll let you know that I am drawn to the theatre because my words and actions are scripted out and rehearsed and I find safety in that process.)

It is possible to have both shy and introverted tendencies, but to assume that one, the other, or both are fully able to describe a complex human being is to be incredibly disrespectful! When I’m in a leadership position, I do find it easier to make small talk with total strangers. I organised a flash mob for Halloween at my dance studio in Florida, and I found on the first day of our instruction that I was able to meet and greet those who were completely new to the studio and I was walking on Cloud 9 that day, let me tell you! However, with my Mary Kay home business, I’m encouraged to go to a convention center in Dallas for four days and spend the night with woman I barely know and it absolutely terrifies me.

I once took the famous personality test, the Meyers-Briggs. It is something a lot of employers require and can be a fascinating insight into your own life. Why do you do the things you do? Why did you decide certain things and act a certain way? Research shows that mankind enjoys categories. When we find something we don’t know we’re really thrown off because it has no category and so we rush to study and learn so that we can put it neatly in a box. Sometimes things go neatly into their boxes and sometimes they don’t (and so we create a new box!) but learning about your own personality is a liberating process. I’ve always been very self-aware. I don’t know if it is so much of my theatre background because I learned to read a character in a script like an actual person and then prescribe the same work to myself. Or maybe I’m just acutely aware of how I present myself and so I analyze my thoughts and behaviour and words all the time. Either way, knowing some generalities about others with my personality type is fascinating to me.

I’m an INFJ, according to the Meyers-Briggs testing system and mostly I find that it tallies with my own assessment of my personality. I wouldn’t say that it defines me but it is the one thing that comes closest, if a definition could be given. As I said though, humans are more complex than simple definitions allow. And I’m only 28-years old. So maybe I’m not finished with my personality yet.

So why do the extroverted people in my life tell me that I just need to be more outgoing? Why is my personality so offensive to those who are so unlike me? What you don’t realise is that my thoughts are kind, warm, and friendly, even if I don’t excel at small talk. I am constantly thinking about how others around me might respond to me, even if I am exhausted from spending time at a party with them all. What else can I do, other than my best? You know how when you expect bad things to happen, bad things seem to happen? Or looking for reasons to dislike someone will often make you find them! You can’t just tell a shy person that they need to be more outgoing and magically take away years of social fear. Why not accept them just the way they are and love them as God intended?

I leave you with these questions to ponder. Ponder them with sincerity and intent because I think the world would be a better place if we all did this.

What if we all tried to focus on speaking kind words? Instead of hiding our rude words behind the banner of “being honest” what if we all tried to think of the impact that rudeness will have on others, even others you didn’t intend to reach?

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/60141638@N06/8508070539″>Hello My Name Is Introvert</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

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